Last season was a time of turnover for the Houston Astros, as a number of veterans were shipped out and a crop of young prospects was asked to step up and fill in. One of those prospects was first baseman Brett Wallace, who had the biggest shoes to fill stepping in for Lance Berkman, who was traded last season to the New York Yankees.
Berkman had been a fixture in the Astros lineup for over a decade, but many felt that Father Time caught up to Berkman and his skills were starting to slip. Well, there must be something in the water in St. Louis because Lance has had a resurgence this season.
Not to be outdone, Brett Wallace is off to a great start as well and is doing everything he can to make fans forget about Berkman.
Here is how the two seasons compare for the former Astros first baseman and the current one.
Lance Berkman's Batting Average: .344
Brett Wallace's Batting Average: .323
Both players are off to a great start, but Lance Berkman is a few points better than Wallace. However, Berkman has been in a little bit of a slump the past week, hitting only .133 compared to Wallace, who is hitting .273.
Another big difference, and the reason I give the edge to Wallace in this category, is that Berkman gets to hit in a lineup with Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. I am sure he is the third focus for pitchers in that lineup.
Brett Wallace, on the other hand, gets Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee, which means Wallace does not have nearly as much help as Berkman.
Lance Berkman: 11 HR, 34 RBI
Brett Wallace: 3 HR, 13 RBI
This is no contest, as Lance Berkman gets the edge in this category, hitting 11 home runs with 34 RBI through his first 37 games. He is three home runs away from tying his season total from last year.
I think this again could be attributed to getting to play with some of the best hitters in the game in Pujols and Holliday.
Wallace also has shown some power in the minor leagues, hitting 20 in 2009 and 18 home runs last year in only 95 games. I don't think Astros fans need to worry yet, as Wallace is still trying to get comfortable, and playing in Minute Maid Park will make things easier for him.
Lance Berkman has already won Player of the Week twice for the National League, during the weeks of April 11-17 and April 25-May 1. He is the only player so far this season to have won the award two times.
He has, however, struggled so far in the month of May, hitting only .212. It will be interesting to see if the 37-year-old can turn it around or if he is already getting run down.
This is one area where Brett Wallace has greatly improved over his time in the minors and now in the majors. He always had a potent bat, but many questioned his defensive abilities. During his time in the minors he made the switch from third base to first base and has played pretty well at first base.
He has had only two errors so far this season and has a fielding percentage of .993. This ranks him 20th in MLB for first basemen—better numbers than Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols.
Lance Berkman had to make the move to the outfield after signing with the Cardinals due to them already having a pretty good first baseman in Pujols. The move has not been easy for Berkman, as he a fielding percentage of .981 but does only have one error. He does have experience playing in the outfield but hadn't played it regularly since 2004. Age may start to play a role in his defensive ability as the season drags on.
There is no denying that Lance Berkman is off to a great start, and if he is able to continue the start he is having, he should most likely be an All-Star come July. However, the Astros made the right move trading Berkman when they did.
Brett Wallace is also off to a great start in his own right and is starting to show why so many teams have traded for the first baseman in his short career.
This is is also a great move for the future, as Berkman is not getting any younger, not to mention Wallace has a much smaller salary than Berkman.